Ode to the Soulful Kitchen

Crisp white kitchens are a classic and it’s not surprising that they have been incredibly popular for nearly two decades and show little sign of giving up the top spot. My post on the movie decor of Something’s Gotta Give is still one of my Top 10 visited posts and it came out in 2003! While there are so many beautiful white kitchens, they really just don’t speak to me. They can seem sterile and almost too perfect, if that makes sense. What I love and swoon over is a more soulful kitchen, perhaps even moody. Dark painted cabinets, natural woods and mixed materials really make my heart go pitter patter.  I like a space that looks collected over time with a mix of materials, a little rustic yet elegant with simple lines and not a lot of extraneous detail. A place where fine art and breadboards go together.

I am finished with the design of the Dream Home 2021 kitchen and wanted to share some of what has inspired the design – plus a little early peak with description at the bottom.

This was an image I saw on Instagram taken at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. This obviously isn’t their main kitchen but how lovely is the mix of marble, headboard and dark cabinetry? I like the clever holes in the counter for scraps and the farmhouse sink is divine.

Gleneagles Resort kitchen photo by Willow Crosley Creates soulful kitchens
Gleneagles Hotel kitchen photo by Willow Crosley Creates on Instagram

One of my favorite sources of kitchen inspiration comes from Devol Kitchens out of the UK (they now have a branch in NYC!). I do enjoy the old English look – which makes sense coming from New England!

Loving the counter mounted glass front cabinet!

Devol Kitchen blue kitchen glass door cabinet soulful kitchen
Devol Kitchens

Art belongs in the kitchen!


Devol Kitchens Green kitchen art in kitchen Ketchum Rye soulful kitchen
Devol Kitchens – Ketchum Rye Kitchen


This is an image from Farrow & Ball showcasing their De Nimes color. I don’t know who the designer is, but will post if I find out. Love the plate rack and usefulness of the lower shelf. The thickness of the countertop is pretty special too.

Farrow & Ball De Nimes blue soulful kitchen
Farrow & Ball De Nimes Blue #299

Lauren Liess is one of my favorite designers. While her style is very different than mine, I love the mix of materials. She really gets the soulful feeling. This was a kitchen in one of her homes. The wall of old oil paintings is a unique and beautiful touch on this interior wall.

Lauren Liess & Co. Interior Design soulful kitchen
Lauren Liess Kitchen

Another British brand kitchen – this is from Smeg showcasing their Classic Cooker. I love how it’s tucked into the wall – a big professional style range can look a little commercial but this application is all homey comfort.

Smeg kitchen appliances
Smeg Kitchen appliances featuring their Classic Cooker

This was a kitchen I worked on a few years ago. The glass display cabinet on the left just peeking into view was originally a modern and bland corner wall-niche with glass shelves. I designed a “jelly cabinet” inspired look with beadboard back walls and antiqued painted doors to match the kitchen walls. Vintage pieces gave this modern garden home a more cozy feel.

Linda Merrill Duxbury Garden Home coastal Kitchen watermarked
Design by Linda Merrill | Photo by Michael J. Lee

And this was my own kitchen that I made over in a townhouse I used to live in. Painted and antiqued cabinets, beadboard walls and checkerboard floor plus the burlap shade and skirting gave it a high/low collected look – this was my first attempt at a soulful kitchen. (BTW – this was paintable beadboard wallpaper – all the rage in blog land when I did it. So easy and quick tho!)

Linda Merrill French country kitchen dark cabinets black and white floor counter skirt
Design by Linda Merrill | Photo by Michael J. Lee

And here is a little peek at the Dream Home 2021 kitchen. This is the cooking side. The sink, dishwasher and fridge are opposite. I ended up dropping the ceiling height to 10 feet from 12 and added beams which makes it a little more cozy. If it looks like it’s missing a cooktop, there is a seamless induction stovetop below the vent hood. It blends completely into the black and white Cambria quarts counter and wall. While I was toying with a more showy range, I knew that I’d really be very happy with something more minimal especially as the kitchen is open to the great room and I do tend to prefer more closed off spaces. I’m still looking at hardware choices and accessories then I think it’s good to go and will be posting soon!

Linda Merrill Dream Home Kitchen in process soulful kitchen
Linda Merrill Dream Home 2021 Kitchen in process

The mudroom/pantry/laundry room/puppy-washing station/guest resources room (is there even a word for all that? The “everything” room?) is nearing completion as well, but the kitchen pulled together quicker.

So, what about you? Are you Team White Kitchen or Team Soulful Kitchen?

You may also enjoy: Rustic Kitchen Design – How Much is Too Much?


12 thoughts on “Ode to the Soulful Kitchen”

  1. So beautiful! I love the dark colors. I do have to agree with another response that I didn’t care for the paintings in the workspace. Although I do have some just off my kitchen in a serving and prep area. So I can see that being ok for others.

  2. “Another beautiful mix of painted and stained woods as well as the mix of stone countertops.”
    Can you please tell me the paint and stain colors you used in the photo with this description? Colors are so richly warm when combined. We have a long galley kitchen (1932 Spanish Colonial Revival home in So. Cal. on historic registry). I would love to incorporate these colors, but not sure if they would make kitchen seem too closed-in. These colors would be my first choice though. We have two double-door style windows that open inward (french-door style) that are stained in a similar color.

    • Hi – This beautiful design is from Park and Oak Interiors – there’s a link right under the image. I don’t know what the paint and stain colors are. Thank you!

  3. I am a huge fan of DEVOL kitchens, Linda, and loved looking at all the gorgeous examples you provided. I love the way darker kitchens look in images, but, for me, I’m on team white or at least a lighter kitchen, but that’s also due to where I live. A dark kitchen up north, during the winter, with a lovely fire? I can SO see how warm and welcoming it would feel.

    Here on the southeast coast of TX. Not so much. It would feel too hot… but I can always come visit you!

  4. I am definitely a soulful kitchen fan and love your examples! The more photos I saw the more convinced I became. Well done Linda, when I do my new kitchen (in the coming years) I will have a clearer direction than I ever did before!

  5. Though I do like white kitchens and the classic nature of them, I’m lean toward team soulful here as my personal preference! I am toying with the idea of dark cabinets, maybe even black, when I redo my own kitchen…but first, I need a bigger window 🙂 I’m torn between dark and moody and pastel…I really like both options. And I love the dream kitchen you are working on – so beautiful!

  6. Hello Linda, One problem with white kitchens today is that years ago kitchens were smaller and the white looked bright and clean. But now with larger kitchens all that white can become blinding and overwhelming. I still like lots of white in a kitchen, so I don’t know that I would create a moody one, although the fantasy and posed photographs can look tempting. Specifically, I dislike oil paintings in kitchens–even if they are protected by glass or inexpensive, they just don’t belong in that environment. They are visually jarring, and incidentally suggest that not much real cooking goes on there, a look I would not find very comfortable in a kitchen. Incidentally, I at first quickly scanned the photos, and the two I liked best turned out to be your work!

    • Hi Jim – I corrected the email. We’ll have to agree to disagree about oil paintings in kitchens. You may be right about how it reflects on the use of a kitchen (in my own case – haha) , but I would say that good ventilation makes all the difference. And obviously, one wouldn’t put a Rembrandt in the kitchen. And thanks for the compliment on my work! L


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